Chinese Calligraphy Zhongshi Ouyang, Wen C. Fong

The Culture & Civilization of China
Publication date:
23 Sep 2008
Yale University Press
520 pages: 305 x 229mm
75 b-w + 550 color illus.
Sales territories:


A landmark reference volume devoted to Chinese calligraphy, a unique and beautiful art form with a three-thousand-year tradition

Chinese calligraphy, with its artistic as well as utilitarian values, has been treasured for its formal beauty for more than three millennia. This lavishly illustrated book brings to English language readers for the first time a full account of calligraphy in China, including its history, theory, and importance in Chinese culture. Representing an unprecedented collaboration among leading Chinese and Western specialists, the book provides a definitive and up-to-date overview of the visual art form most revered in China.

The book begins with the premise that the history of Chinese script writing represents the core development of the history of Chinese culture and civilization. Tracing the development of calligraphic criticism from the second century to the twenty-first, the fourteen contributors to the volume offer a well-balanced and readable account of this tradition. With more than 600 illustrations, including examples of extremely rare Chinese calligraphy from all over the world, and an informative prologue  by Wen C. Fong, this book will make a welcome addition to the library of every Western reader interested in China and its premiere art form.

Ouyang Zhongshi is professor at Capital Normal University, Beijing, and advisor to the Chinese Calligraphers’ Association. Wen C. Fong is chair and professor at the Center for Advanced Study of Tsinghua University and professor emeritus in the Department of Art and Archaeology of Princeton University.

"Calligraphy is China's most revered visual art, able to fascinate with its natural beauty those who cannot read a single character and captivate with its subtleties those who can. This carefully crafted volume opens up a world of profound visual pleasure, with rewards for specialists and generalists alike. Its team of fourteen experts explores the history of an art that is not free of rules but gives unlimited rein to creative expression, is not purely abstract but challenges our understanding of abstraction, and at its best is simply sublime. 'Definitive' is not a word to use lightly, but here is the definitive overview of this art for our time."—Jerome Silbergeld, P.Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Professor of Chinese Art History, Princeton University

"Covering 3,000 years, this sumptuous volume reveals the 'inspired, expressive creativity' of Chinese calligraphy. Creative change is at the heart of things here, and one learns to relish the forms themselves as revelations of the artist's presence."—Tom D'Evelyn, Providence Journal

"[Chinese Calligraphy] succeeds not only as a history of China's written language—an art form closely related to Chinese painting that is considered independent from spoken language—but as a history of China itself."—Art & Antiques

"Monumental. . . . Beyond its value as a survey of the art, the book provides a sweeping view of Chinese history, illuminating how closely the various forms of calligraphy were tied to the prevailing political and cultural mores of each dynastic period."—Frank Olinsky, Tricycle